Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Tracking Mouse Movement in Feature Inference: Category Labels Are Different from Feature Labels

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Tracking Mouse Movement in Feature Inference: Category Labels Are Different from Feature Labels

Article excerpt

In this article, we examine the role of category labels in inductive inference. Some leading research has suggested that information about category membership works just like any other feature in categorical inductions, whereas other research has proposed that the influence of category membership on induction goes beyond that of other features. To investigate these claims further, we developed an online measure of judgments that is akin to eyetracking. The judgment results and the mouse-tracking data jointly support the view that category labels do affect inductive inferences in a way distinct from that for feature information. When arbitrary labels conveyed category membership information, participants viewed these labels more often and earlier in a trial, in comparison with cases in which the same labels conveyed non-membership information. Our results suggest that category membership information works like a guide for inference. An ecological rationale for this induction strategy is also discussed.

Consider the following sentence: James is a Harvard-educated carpenter. By assigning James this label of a Harvard-educated carpenter, we are able to elicit many inductive inferences about James that go beyond a man who is a carpenter who received an education from Harvard. Perhaps he is a man who values an education but prefers a simple lifestyle. Or perhaps James went to Harvard due to family pressure but is now rebelling against his father (Kunda, Miller, & Claire, 1990). In the present study, we attempted to investigate how category labels can influence inductive judgments.

Categorical noun labels can influence inference differently than does other feature information. However, contemporary theories of categorical induction make little distinction between category labels and feature labels. For example, in the model proposed by Sloman (1993), the strength of an argument is assumed to depend on (1) the extent to which a premise category and a conclusion category have attributes in common (similarity) and (2) the extent to which a premise category spans a conclusion category (coverage; hereafter, we will call these two factors attribute-based similarity). Indeed, major research in categorical inference has evolved around specifying the boundary conditions in which these two factors are applicable (Heit & Rubinstein, 1994; Medin, Coley, Storms, & Hayes, 2003; but see Ross, Gelman, & Rosengren, 2005). This approach is also prevalent in other fields, including judgment and decision making (e.g., representative heuristics; Kahneman & Tversky, 1973; Shafir, Smith, & Osherson, 1990; Tversky & Kahneman, 1983) and stereotyping and impression formation research (Allport, 1954; Duckitt, 1992; Hamilton & Sherman, 1994; Kashima, Woolcock, & Kashima, 2000; Kunda & Thagard, 1996; Stangor, 2000).

Implicit in these studies is an assumption that category membership can be represented by a collection of features or individual instances (Anderson, 1990; Kruschke, 1992; Love, Medin, & Gureckis, 2004; Nosofsky, 1986; Sloutsky, 2003; see also A. B. Markman & Ross, 2003, for a different approach) and that categorical noun labels simply point to the content of the category. In this view, category labels work just like other feature labels (Anderson, 1990).

In this study, we investigated the inductive potential of noun labels from a different perspective. We think that category labels have a special property that distinguishes them from other features and that they influence inductive inference differently from other attribute information. Unlike other features, category labels guide induction by leading an observer to actively search for similarities and differences among objects. In other words, rather than being a piece of information to be added as another feature, category labels initiate an inference process (Gelman & Coley, 1 990; Gelman & Heyman, 1 999; Yamauchi, 2005; Yamauchi & Markman, 2000). …

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